“Being accepted into this apprenticeship was just incredible,” said Howard Brown II, among six new tradespeople who deepened the University of Virginia’s Facilities Management talent pool Wednesday as they graduated from the apprenticeship program. At the same ceremony, held at Alumni Hall, nine new inductees signed contracts to become apprentices.
Brown, who graduated from the program as an electrician, worked as a landscaper for three years at the University before beginning his apprenticeship in 2009. He had some knowledge of the field because his father was an electrician and he knew having a trade would provide him with more job security and better opportunities.
“It took me three years of applications and two interviews before I got accepted,” Brown said. “This program gives you opportunities, and if you strive for success you can reach these goals. There is always somewhere to go at the University.”
Brown, 29, who has been a Wahoo fan for most of his life, was impressed with what he learned. “I saw so many sides of the University and learned so much from each department I was assigned to,” he said. In the apprenticeship curriculum, students experience “a great rotation and you go from working in the utility tunnels to changing light bulbs to renovating historic buildings.”
At Wednesday’s ceremony, University officials congratulated the newly graduated apprentices, welcomed the new inductees to the apprenticeship program and honored other employees of Facilities Management who have furthered their education.
The graduating apprentices are electricians Brown and Justin Doniel; electronics technicians Jason Hite and Bobby Stanley; George Stinnie, a heating, air conditioning and ventilation worker; and plasterer Zackery Mays.
Doniel is taking up his father’s trade, using his working experiences at the Judge Advocate General School, the central heating plant and the Observatory Hill Dining Hall. Stinnie has worked at Scott Stadium and Davenport Field. Mays started in 2010 as a plasterer apprentice, a skill he learned from his father, a historic mason and supervisor at U.Va. Stanley was an electronics technician apprentice in the Fire Systems group, where he was the lead on field device installation and wire-pulling projects. Hite worked as an electronics technician in U.Va.’s elevator group, after working as a mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has worked in the Health System and Alderman Library.
Colette Sheehy, U.Va.’s vice president for management and budget, gave a brief history of the apprenticeship program, which started in 1982 – the first of its kind in a public university, and a model for many programs since.
She said the apprentice program could help maintain the University’s competitive edge, citing a recent Washington Post commentary that stated while the official U.S. unemployment rate is about 7.5 percent, some 600,000 jobs go unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers.
“The commentary goes on to say that apprenticeships are growing rapidly in other countries: in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, 55 to 70 percent of all young people enter apprenticeships,” Sheehy said. “The authors suggest that a 21st-century apprenticeship program in the U.S. would resolve the gap between jobs and employment.”
She noted that the University benefits from the loyalty of the apprentices. Of the 140 apprentices who have graduated since 1982, 109 still work at the University, including all 13 members of the first class.
“We can also say that our apprenticeship program illustrates some strong family ties,” Sheehy said. “George Stinnie, one of today’s graduates, applied for apprenticeship after seeing the opportunities the program gave his relatives, Mark Stinnie, a 1998 graduate, and the late Gary Stinnie, who graduated in 1990.”
Entry into the apprenticeship program is very competitive; there were about 600 applicants for nine openings in April, when the application period opened. A team of human resource specialists and tradespeople review the applications, with the candidates selected on the basis of potential and commitment to the University.
Of those newly committing for four-year apprenticeships, there are two carpenters, two electricians, three plumbers and two heating, air conditioning and ventilation technicians.
Joshua Gibson, who will apprentice in HVAC work, completed the building trades program at William Monroe High School’s Technical Training Center, where he placed in the district and state competitions. Gibson will be taught at the Health System Physical Plant under Gary Allen, a previous apprentice graduate.
Austin Ricketson, an electrician apprentice, earned his certificate in residential electricity from Valley Vocational Technical Center. He will be working at the Health System Physical Plant under Alex DiGiacomo.
Raymond Hunter, a carpenter’s apprentice, had been a temporary worker in the central heating plant and a landscaper. He received a certificate from the Home Builders Institute in its Carpentry Pre-Apprentice Program and completed his Occupational Health and Safety Administration certifications. He will train at the Project Services Group under Matthew Pannell.
Zane Adams, a carpenter’s apprentice, has worked with his father, a master carpenter, and built everything from bridges and decks, learning skills including framing and cabinetry. Adams will train in the Project Services Group under Brian Tinnell.
Antonio Blakey, an HVAC apprentice, developed his customer service skills at a previous job, where he received employee of the month and of the year awards. He will train in HVAC under Felix Crawford, a previous apprentice graduate.
Bruce Parrish Jr., an electrician apprentice, has been working as an electrical technician for two years and will train under Mark Gragg in the Mechanical Trades Group.
Zackery Collins, a plumber apprentice, has experience as an assistant plumber and will be learning from Dickie Williams in the Health System Physical Plant.
Kristina Williams, a plumber apprentice, worked for Facilities Management since 2010 in the Housing Division. She will work in the Health System Physical Plant and learn from Doug Rush.
Christopher Williams, a plumbing apprentice, worked with plumbers in his family. He will work at the Project Services Group, training under James Cashwell.
The program also honored Facilities Management employees who have received college degrees. Frank Friedman, president of Piedmont Virginia Community College, and Susan Erno, program coordinator for the Charlottesville City School Adult Learning Center, praised the employees for their efforts pursuing college degrees, general educational development diplomas and English-as-a-second-language classes.
“There are many opportunities to better yourself, but so few people are willing to invest in the long term,” Friedman said. “There are always good reasons – too old, no time, no money, have a family to look after. You have the courage to try. You stayed with it, refused to be a victim of the future; you will be a creator of the future.”
Three employees were cited for earning associate’s degrees from PVCC: Dexter Breeden, a plumber’s apprentice who received an associate’s degree in general studies; Michael Gilbert, an information technology specialist who received an associate’s degree of applied sciences in information systems technology; and one of the apprenticeship program graduates, Jason Hite, who received an associate’s degree of applied science in electronics and computer technology.
Four employees were honored for receiving master’s degrees, including three who received their degrees from U.Va.
June Bates, a materials manager, received a Master of Arts in human services and executive leadership from Liberty University.
The three employees who received master’s degrees from U.Va. are Benjamin Hays, a structural engineer working for the University Building Officer, who received a Master of Arts degree in architectural history from the School of Architecture; Mark Webb, associate director for work management, who received a master’s degree in management of information technology from the McIntire School of Commerce; and Paul Zmick, mechanical trades superintendent, who received a master’s degree in systems engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Also honored was Abdalla Mohamed, a landscape worker, native of Sudan and a U.S. citizen since 2006, who was cited for his fifth winning essay for the Voices of Adult Learners competition, titled “My Best Day at Work.”
Nasreen Aswadi, a custodial services worker in the Health System since June 2006, received an honorable mention in the Voices competition for her essay, “Working in the Garden.”
Nafisa Azizi, an Afghani working as a housekeeping lead worker, received an honorable mention for her essay, “First Day in America,” and Islam Makhmudov, a Russian who started working at U.Va. as a cook in 2007 and who has been working as a housekeeper since 2011, received an honorable mention for his essay, “My First Neighbor in America.”